MH370 conspiracy theories: What happened to the missing flight?

Jun 13, 2016

Wild rumours continue to circulate about the fate of the Malaysian Airlines jet

More than two years after it disappeared, the mystery of what happened to Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 continues to baffle the world.

The international search for the plane, which vanished on 8 March 2014, is still focused on the southern Indian Ocean, but investigators seem no closer to solving one of the biggest mysteries in aviation history.

No wreckage has been discovered in the area. Instead, five pieces of debris were found on the coasts of Reunion Island, Mozambique, Mauritius and South Africa.

Armchair sleuths, aviation experts and several book authors have put forward alternative explanations, questioning everything from the site of the search and the plausibility of the debris to the failure of investigators to make any meaningful discoveries.

Here are some of the best – and strangest – of the conspiracy theories:

North Korea took MH370

It didn't take long for the most secretive nation in the world to be dragged into the MH370 rumour mill. Shortly after the plane disappeared, several conspiracy theorists questioned whether North Korea might be the "missing link" in the mystery.

They pointed to South Korea's claim that North Korea nearly took out a Chinese plane carrying 220 passengers on 5 March 2014, with Chinese Southern Airlines reportedly passing through the trajectory of a North Korean missile just seven minutes after it was fired. Three days later, MH370 disappeared.

While some think Pyongyang shot down the plane, others think it might have hijacked it and diverted it to North Korea. One anonymous aviation worker told eTurboNews Group that somebody out there wanted "a really, really huge plane" and that they were most likely after the Boeing 777's technology. Would supreme leader Kim Jong-un go that far? "Kidnapping and human trafficking has always been part of North Korea's scary agenda," said Nelson Alcantara, eTN editor-in-chief. One Reddit user claimed the "perfect place" to perform a hijack would be over the sea soon after take-off. "The North Korean government is bat shit crazy," he added. "There's no telling what crazy logic they might have for taking a plane."

Vladimir Putin hijacked the plane

It was surely only a matter of time before Vladimir Putin was accused of being involved in the disappearance of the MH370. However, what is surprising is that the accusation has come from a comparatively reputable source. Jeff Wise, a US science writer who was central to CNN's coverage of the MH370 last year has come up with the surprising theory based on the so-called "pings" that the plane emitted for seven hours after it went missing. According to Wise, the plane's hijackers "spoofed" the plane's navigation data to give off the impression that it flew south, but in fact took the Boeing 777 north and landed it in the Baikonur Cosmodrome, which is leased from Kazakhstan by Russia. Wise posited the theory on his website, but admitted that he has "no idea" why Vladimir Putin would want to hijack a plane filled with passengers and land it at a Russian space port.

"Maybe he wanted to demonstrate to the United States, which had imposed the first punitive sanctions on Russia the day before, that he could hurt the West and its allies anywhere in the world," Wise wrote in his article for New York Magazine. "Maybe what he was really after were the secrets of one of the plane's passengers. Maybe there was something strategically crucial in the hold. Or maybe he wanted the plane to show up unexpectedly somewhere someday, packed with explosives. There's no way to know." 

On the moon

Three weeks after MH370 went missing, the Sunday Sport announced that the aircraft had been found... on the moon. The front page splash, complete with a doctored photograph of a plane on the surface of the moon, claimed to be a "world exclusive". Drawing attention to an unexplained blip on the radar seen close to flight MH370 before it disappeared, the newspaper said: "The simplest explanation is that this is an intergalactic spacecraft that has swallowed the Boeing 777 whole and transported it to the moon for some extra- terrestrial reason."

The "scoop" came 26 years after the tabloid published a very similar story about a B-52 bomber, also coincidentally discovered "on the moon". The incredible find turned out to be just as true as other celebrated Sunday Sport stories, such as "Aliens turned our son into a fish finger" and "Statue of Elvis found on Mars". When it emerged that no such bomber could be found on the lunar surface, the paper ran a follow-up headline on its front page: "World War 2 bomber found on moon vanishes".

404: Plane not found 

Soon after MH370 went missing somebody noticed that the aircraft in question was the 404th Boeing 777 to have come off the production line. The significance? On the internet, a "404 error" message is returned when a web page can't be found. It was therefore interpreted as a hidden message about the fate of the plane, although what it might signify about its fate was unclear. There was a further twist when a group called the Lizard Squad, describing itself as a "cyber caliphate", hacked the Malaysian Airlines website and replaced its content with a message reading "404 – plane not found". But the group made no other claims or demands, and its actions seem to be no more than online mischief.

The plane was shot down by the US military

A French former airline director who has been investigating the disappearance of flight MH370 has claimed that the missing plane was shot down by American fighter jets who feared that it had been hijacked and was about to be used to attack the US military base on the Indian Ocean atoll of Diego Garcia.

Marc Dugain, who once ran French airline Proteus, said that he had been warned not to look too closely into the case of MH370 by a British intelligence officer who told him that he was taking "risks", according to France Inter. Dugain had travelled to the Maldives and interviewed witnesses "who reportedly told him they had seen a 'huge plane flying at a really low altitude' towards the island bearing the Malaysia Airlines colours", The Independent reports.

Several months ago, a book called Flight MH370 – The Mystery, suggested that MH370 had been shot down accidentally by US-Thai joint strike fighters in a military exercise in the South China Sea. The book also claims that search and rescue efforts were deliberately sent in the wrong direction as part of a cover-up, the Daily Mail reports.

The Reunion debris is fake

Relatives of the passengers who were on MH370 reacted with a mixture of grief and disbelief following the announcement by the Malaysian prime minister, Najib Razak, that the wreckage found on the Indian Ocean island of Reunion came from the missing plane, The Guardian reports.

"I want to kill him," said Zhang Meiling, 62, whose daughter and son-in-law were travelling on the plane. "What he said is nonsense. I just want to kill him."

Others said that in their view, the discovery of wing parts had been faked. "I don't believe it," said Bao Lanfang, 63, whose son, daughter-in-law and grandchild were on MH370. "It has been 515 [days] – that is enough time for them to have produced fake debris."

Life insurance scam

In March 2014, Malaysian police refused to rule out the possibility that the entire incident may have been a complicated insurance scam.

"Maybe somebody on the flight has bought a huge sum of insurance, who wants family to gain from it or somebody who has owed somebody so much money, you know, we are looking at all possibilities," said Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar Malaysia's Inspector-General of Police.

At the time, authorities said they would consider all possible motives, no matter how unlikely they seemed, and would investigate all passengers and crew for any sign of unusual behaviour.

"We are looking very closely at the video footage taken at the KLIA (Kuala Lumpur International Airport)," he added. "We are studying the behavioural pattern of all the passengers."

MH370 and MH17 were in fact the same plane

One theory that gained traction in the summer of 2014 was the suggestion that the airliner that crashed in a field in Ukraine was in fact the lost flight MH370, not the scheduled flight MH17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. 

According to the theory, proposed by a number of sites, including, MH370 was hijacked and forced to land safely in an undisclosed location. Some believers say that the plane was taken to the US military base Diego Garcia – believed to be within range of where the MH370 disappeared – and then deliberately crashed near Donetsk by US agents months later in a "false flag" operation designed to discredit Russia. 

Subsequent world events have played into the theorists' hands, as a number of countries accused Russia of providing military support to Ukrainian separatists – including Buk missile launchers capable of shooting down planes at high altitudes. The EU and US subsequently tightened their sanctions on Moscow.

To support their argument, some commentators, such as Opob News, point to the fact that wreckage found in Ukraine seems to have a different configuration of windows to the actual MH17, and that a Malaysian flag on the side of the fuselage is not in the right place. Others have suggested that these pictures are fake.

Alien abduction 

Five per cent of Americans surveyed by believe that the plane was abducted by aliens. Some bloggers have pointed to a number of recent UFO sightings in Malaysia as evidence for extraterrestrial intervention. Alexandra Bruce, from Forbidden Knowledge TV, "proves" the involvement of aliens with her analysis of radar data. She claims that footage posted on YouTube shows the presence of something that "can only be termed a UFO" in the skies over Malaysia. Of course, that means something that is "unidentified" rather than aliens.

A 9/11-style false-flag hijack mission

No conspiracy is complete without Israeli involvement, and MH370 is no exception. According to this theory, Israeli agents planned to crash the Malaysia Airlines plane into a building, as in the September 11 attacks, and then blame the atrocity on Iran. Proponents point to the quick identification of two Iranian nationals travelling on forged passports and claims that CCTV images released of the pair had been doctored. More extravagantly, some have claimed that a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 identical to the one that went missing "had been stored in a hangar in Tel Aviv since November 2013".

The CIA is behind it

In a blog post, Malaysia's former prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, wrote that he believes the US Central Intelligence Agency must know something about the plane's fate. He also claimed that Boeing, the plane’s maker, and “certain” unnamed government agencies, are able to take control of commercial airliners such as the missing Boeing 777 remotely if necessary. "Airplanes don’t just disappear," he wrote on his blog. "Certainly not these days with all the powerful communication systems, radio and satellite tracking and filmless cameras which operate almost indefinitely and possess huge storage capacities. ... For some reason, the media will not print anything that involves Boeing or the CIA." 

China and Edward Snowden

Reddit user Dark_Spectre has a theory that links the disappearance of MH370 with Edward Snowden's revelations about the extent of US surveillance.

The theory is based on the fact that the flight was carrying 20 employees of Freescale Semiconductor – a company that may have worked with the NSA to develop surveillance technology, according to Snowden's documents.

Dark_Spectre writes: "We have the American IBM Technical Storage Executive for Malaysia, a man working in mass storage aggregation for the company implicated by the Snowden papers for providing their services to assist the National Security Agency in surveilling the Chinese. And now this bunch of US chip guys working for a global leader in embedded processing solutions (embedded smart phone tech and defence contracting) all together… on a plane… and disappeared. Coincidence?" 

The Reddit sleuth suggests that the apparent disappearance of flight MH370 may actually have been the result of an audacious attempt by China to capture a group of private contractors who helped the NSA to conduct spy operations against them. "Honestly, what would 200 lives be to the Chinese intelligence community for the opportunity to find out exactly the depth and scope of our intrusion," Dark_Spectre concludes. 

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I think this has to do something with the srilankan president mahinda rajapaksha because hes working with the north koreans now for a private army with air support.

There is no missing plane , its all a hoax so the governments can promote putting tracking chips in humans

"A conspiracy theory is an explanatory proposition that accuses two or more persons, a group, or an organization of having caused or covered up, through secret planning and deliberate action, an illegal or harmful event or situation."

I don't see how the Bermuda triangle falls into that category. Furthermore, What about when they were 'filling the void" with all the hyping and milking to turn this incident into some kind of Al Qaeda terrorist plot in which the plane was being turned into a WMD against the "free world"? Surely, that too warrants the conspiracy theory title that falls within the nut job category.

Just because there are an excess of "nutty" theories about Secret Agencies, Aliens, Secret Power Sources and a whole range of fairytale monsters does not of itself prove that the consensus "normal" view is factually correct.
Perhaps, a more accurate term to describe what's in this article would be "bizarre theories", because conspiring is a part of human nature and to dismiss conspiracy theories offhand is just as much an irrational knee-jerk reaction as blindly embracing them at any cost. The negative connotation attached to the term only serves to set a precedent in which critical thinking is discouraged and any view contrary to establishment orthodoxy is silenced. It should also be noted that Richard Nixon, the first person to coin the term, in an ironic turn of events got his ass busted and impeached for taking part in a conspiracy.

Prelude to WW 3
33.3 kHz indicates that Free Masons are involved.

This is the 5th airliner to go missingin a similar manner. No relevant/valid wreckage was found of the 4 9/11 planes.

you really want to s under my bed...yeah the whole is.....straight up ..owl

lovely imaginative thinking

The plane was escorted to Chinese top secret military airbase, search China, the plane and the people on board will be found.

Good for just follow what your TV tells you to do.

You'll believe any wacko conspiracy theory that you find on the internet, and yet, everyone else is gullible? Oh, the irony!

Conspiracy theories: Making stupid people feel smart since the dawn of the internet.

I think that the flight 370 went into some kind of unknown dimension or a some kind of unknown black hole..If this is the case, It will never be found..

Covering ALL angles and not trusting one source and conspiracy theory are 2 completely different things.You have to learn to read between the fine lines.If that makes me to think different (not smarter and not paranoid), and to base my future decisions yes and yes. And if I ever have chance to get away from a harms way I would use my preconceived knowledge to react even if it considered wrong in your or someone else eyes.Again yes and yes I will use all sources to my own disposal and benefit.That is why I told you listen to your TV especially in US.Where all channels copy paste main source of news that is repeated on all channels...Canada is no better.Crappy news too.News are segregated to local and world news.World news are filtered to the point that you will know what is important to the media, not what is important to you.And we all have priorities in life.

Diego Garcia

everyone knows that

Diego Garcia is the American military airbase! So American should be awared of what was going on exactly with MH370 !

Calm down ...I've consulted the Archive..found the answer...

"Tomorrow Is Yesterday " Jan 26 1967 ...O. A .D

..When Spock , Kirk ,McCoy and Aye ..Scottie...end up in a low earth orbit while "accidentally"... time traveling with the ENTERPRISE .
The solution...was obvious ....

1)Read the operating Instructions ...DUH...
2)Use the Ole "Vulcan Mind Meld " and nobody remembers anything.?
3)Always Always use a private space craft ...flown by eunuch aliens.

Damn virgins...nothing but trouble .

You're listing theories. Not all of them are conspiracy theories.

Until it's found, it's a mystery.

I guess the author has no presonal theory on the subject for fear of sounding "conspiratorial".

Where is the theory of the US shooting it down. Lest not forget that one!

This is what we know. The flight disappeared at 1:21. Period! All the info that we heard later was all bogus. The investigation was quickly diverted. Why? To keep evetyone from the truth. It went down at that point. So what could have brought the aircraft down at that location? You dont have to dig deep! Why? Again, put 2 and 2 together!

It's on land somewhere is my belief. It was on a mission when it turned off course. Someone always sees and hears everything that is done. One day all will learn the truth. God bless all of them and their families. I'm waiting...................

Every day I click a major news site and mutter, when they start talking of some starlet's latest movie, 'Have we found that plane yet?' Everyday. In lieu of belief that it's lying in 'silt' in 15000 feet of 'unexplored' water (how convenient if you want to never find it: and how come there are unexplored places on earth? Not doable? Bring the rovers back from Mars, they need to appear before congress to disagree that the oceans are 'too deep'.), I hope the ocean search is a smokescreen while a military operation is planning a rescue at the real location.
And finally, Boeing should consider OnStar. And more AAA batteries in the black boxes. Better yet: 'D' batteries.

the article's author almost got it right but chickened out and could not accept 'aliens'.
google Larry King CNN. ufos shut down missile silos in US, UK and USSR.
check wikipedia Valentich, Cessna. Melbourne Australia, ufo adbduction. Recently Discovery Channel re-aired the Valentich case with the sound track from his open mike. Just before air traffic lost contact you can hear a metallic grinding sound. No Valentich or Cessna ever recovered.

it was either hijacked or shot down by USA. The only one can do that is USA. It is all the stealth technology carried by those scientists on the aircraft. Malaysia knew they won't be able to find aircraft. All the search in Australia is just a show putting up by USA, Australia and UK.

I agree 100% with your idea

We have thousands of drones patrolling our airspace protection our boarders. I think the plane has hit one of these computer operated drones, and I also believe America or China knows about this and is keeping it a secret because of this new technology industry that is worth 100's of Billions of dollars.
Something to think about??????

The fact that you quote David Aaronovitch betraying the level of your thinking and writing

swen You say you are "Covering all angles and not trusting one source." However, instead of believing all the non-conspiracy thinkers (which are a majority by far) you only believe a small group of conspiracy thinkers that call themselves "special" and all the other people "Sheeple, blindly following the government". Thinking from an angle is very good, however you still need a bit of proof. Speculation is okay too, but saying that your own speculations are true and the rest of the world is a lie seems a bit extreme to me. By the way, why the news is so the same on all the channels because channels buy articles from news agencies, and there are only so many of the in the world so the news seems a bit the same everytime. I know this won't change your viewpoint, but look at the wikipedia page for Bielefield conspiracy. It clarifies a lot of things. Have a nice day,